If you love movies and don’t know these names, David Ayer and Michael Pena, you aren’t watching the right movies. Ayer is a writer/director and producer with credits such as The Fast And The Furious, Training Day and End Of Watch under his belt. Pena is a beast of an actor, starring in movies such as Neighborhood Watch, Eastbound And Down, Crash and his new movie alongside Brad Pitt, Fury.
Fury is about a tank crew of American soldiers in Germany during World War II. We chatted with both Ayer and Pena about what makes the film different than any other war movies; the ensemble cast of Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf, among others; and what makes Fury so awesome.
I saw the movie and it was so good — probably the best war movie I’ve ever seen. It was the most realistic look at what war is probably really like and I am curious is that what you were going for?
David Ayer: That’s exactly it. I wanted to show how tough war is and show this family, show how these guys cope and survive and do a job while fighting a war. Within this world in the movie, all this bad sh*t is happening, but there is so much heart and a brotherhood.
I am 28 and my generation and the younger generation are so far removed from the past world wars. We have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, but that is not the same as the past wars. I really felt like it’s important younger people know what these wars were like. We are so set in our ways and if we don’t know our history, we are doomed to repeat it.
David: That’s exactly right. 60 million people died in WW2 and it changed the world. The consequences of the war are still unfolding today and what these guys did and going to Europe and fighting a war in East Asia is nothing short of heroic. These are regular guys that got drafted to do a job and essentially become heroes.
How long does it take to write this movie and come up with this concept?
David: The research took longer than writing the script, I read a lot of books and talked to veterans. I read a lot of actual army reports about tanks and other official war documents. I initially wrote a first draft and then I realized I was writing the same movie that everyone else was writing. I didn’t want to do that, so I threw those pages away and then I came back and revisited it and wrote the script in two weeks.
Before you even had anything on paper, where do you start with an idea like this?
David: I had the idea of a family in a tank initially, because I initially loved shooting things in a car. The scenery changes and you get a lot of intimate shots and emotions. Instead of cars, I decided to use a tank because no one has really done a tank movie before and I knew I wanted to tackle that. Brad Pitt’s character was kind of the first character that I had in mind. I figured out his part first and then I created a family for him to be the dad/big brother for the rest of the crew.
There’s bunch of great actors. Did you have them in mind while writing or did you just fill in the roles?
David: Michael [Pena] is one of the guys that I had in mind for his part. He is such a great actor and he really is the real deal.
So Michael, David calls you and he says, “Hey I have a part for you.” Then you just read the script?
Michael Pena: Yea for sure. I knew from his previous work that this was going to be good. I was really excited in the beginning, before anyone signed on and then I find out Brad Pitt is involved and Shia LaBeouf, so it made me even more excited. I filmed a pilot for a TV show, and for the first time in my career, I didn’t want the pilot to get picked up right away. I really didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity. Then, I read the script two or three more times and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. When you have a part, you want to make sure you can make it something meaningful to people and that they can relate to the character. I tackled my character and a lot of it is he has an odd sense of humor. He coped with the war through his weird sense of humor and he loved the bottle.
Your character was definitely a little off his rocker and I wanted to specifically ask you about one scene, which is the top hat scene. You come into this room after you guys take over a city in Germany and you have a bottle of champagne, a top hat and a cane. You looked like a Spanish version of the monopoly guy without the monocle. How did that scene come about?
Michael: I took that bottle off one of the soldiers, I took the cane and the hat from some random person and it was right after my character got laid. I am feeling great, like a million bucks, so I had to dress the part.
David, I really wanted to ask you about the cinematography, especially the last few scenes. I don’t want to give anything away, but how did you shoot the final battle scene? Was it on a sound stage or on set location?
David: That was all on location and we had some great stuff to work around. We built a building and then ran gas pipes through the house, so we could control the flames. Then, we added what’s called a moon box, which is above us, and it’s essentially a bunch of lights that are controlled by a computer. That scene was so difficult to make it look great and natural at the same time. It ended up coming out great and I was very happy with it.
I’m a huge fan of all your movies and they are all so bad ass. Are you a bad ass in real life? Would you call your self a bad ass?
Michael: Let me answer that. We were sparring with headgear on for the movie. We had a week left on the movie and David was like, “I want to spare too.” He ended up punching me in the face a couple times and this is my director punching me in the face. I was punching him in the stomach and he’s punching one of his stars in the face.
He probably thought if you had a black eye or missing teeth in the movie, it would help your character.
Michael: His response was, “Well, we have make up, so it’s no big deal.”
How would you describe this movie to people who haven’t seen it compared to other war movies?
David: This movie is not what you are expecting at all. It’s entertaining, dramatic, and funny and it has heart. Imagine going to war with your five best friends, that’s what this movie is like.
This movie had every possible emotion and it almost felt like a horror movie at one point, because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Especially in war, you never know what will happen next, so I was constantly on the edge of my seat.
David: There was such tension because you care about the guys. Normally in these movies, you don’t care about the guys because it is always the same type of characters in these movies. In this movie, these are real guys that you feel for in such a bad situation.
The bond and the brotherhood really did make the movie, especially when they keep saying, “Best job I ever had”. Looking towards the future, what are you guys currently working on?
Michael: I am doing a Marvel movie right now called Ant-Man, and then, I am starring in a Mexican soap opera. Then after that, I am starring in another soap opera. No, I am just kidding bro about the soap operas.
Michael, you have been in so many movies and played so many different roles. Which one is your favorite?
Michael: For me, it’s probably Crash and End Of Watch are the most personal. From there, you can throw in this movie Fury and World Trade Center.
How about you David? Are you working on anything? Maybe Training Day 2 or something?
David: Nah, I am just chilling. Maybe we can do a prequel to Training Day and call it Pre-Training Day, and Michael can play a young Denzel.
It would be interesting to see Ethan Hawke become a bad guy like Denzel was.
David: Or, we can make it a zombie movie and Denzel comes back from the grave.